Who We Are

SPARK is a holistic family based program of the St Vincent de Paul Society’s Support Services. We support newly arrived families of refugee and asylum seeker background in their settlement in South West Sydney. We work in partnership with schools, other community services, and with local community members as volunteers to deliver our programs.

SPARK inspires inclusive communities by creating opportunities for newly arrived and settled families to meet and build meaningful connections.

Our work includes:

  • Providing children with educational, aspiration building and recreational programs
  • Providing parent programs, workshops and events that offer opportunities to build educational and language skills, increase social connection and provide support and referrals
  • Building the capacity of the community to support the settlement of newly arrived families. We do this by partnering with and offering training to local schools, community organisations and bilingual workers.

In 2006 the SPARK Program was initiated by the St Vincent de Paul Society in response to the expressed needs of refugee communities in Sydney. This need centred around the lack of settlement support for primary school children of a refugee background. In response, SPARK developed and grew the Bright Sparks program which has helped over 1500 primary school children across 22 schools in five Local Government Areas across Western Sydney.

In 2015 SPARK undertook its first comprehensive program review. The review identified the opportunity for SPARK to expand its scope and support whole families in key stages of transition in their settlement journey.  Since 2015 SPARK have developed programs of support for children zero to five through Little Sparks, a host of broader programs for primary aged children and a wide range of supports for parents through our Community Sparks program.

Key recommendations from this review have and continue to guide the SPARK program in its development of new programs and improvement of existing programs. The SPARK model is based on Community Development principles of community capacity building, advocacy and partnership.

 

 

Our impact statement describes the overall impact the SPARK program strives to have on the community :

Families and children from a refugee background settle well, they are able to fully participate in the community’s social, educational and economic life, and are less vulnerable to exclusion and discrimination, social and health issues, and poverty and disadvantage.

The fundamental aim of the SPARK is to support people to move through and out of vulnerable periods and build capacity to ensure that they are not experiencing on-going disadvantage. The difference we hope to make centres around Children, Schools and Families.

Children: Newly arrived children from a refugee background settle well into school and their community. They have learning and social skills, and make good academic progress. They have resilience and good emotional and mental health.

Schools: Schools have the capacity to support the successful settlement of newly arrived children and families into school and the school community. Schools partner on initiatives that support the children’s learning and adjustment, and engage parents in children’s learning and the school community activities.

Families: Newly arrived families settle well into the school and community. Parents engage with and support children’s learning and have the confidence and knowledge to connect with the school and the community to access support to progress positive settlement.

The SPARK program is part of the St Vincent de Paul Society’s Support Services. The SPARK team includes the following:

  • SPARK staff
  • Bilingual Facilitators
  • Volunteers
  • Partners
  • Funders

The SPARK team include a range of individuals, organisations and communities. We have a dedicated team of core staff who work on the ground, bilingual workers who connect and build relationships directly with the community, many volunteers who support our programs and a number of partners and funders.

 

SPARK aims to create opportunities for families to:

  • Make meaningful connections with others: children make friends and maintain healthy friendships; families know other families; parents can walk into a school (for example) and see friendly faces that they know they can turn to for help
  • Actively participate and contribute to their community: this is when those connections turn into meaningful engagement; children don’t hesitate to try out for extracurricular programs; parents attend P&C or get involved in school events; on the weekends families play sport with their local club
  • Use their own voice and sense of agency to own their experiences and participate in decisions that affect their lives: the refugee experience denies people a sense of control over their own lives, and empowerment starts with taking that control back. So for children it might mean they choose of what they want to do, or who they want to help them, or even if they want any help at all. And we always respect the choices of the children and families we encounter

Our facts & figures

2006

SPARK STARTED

7

CURRENT NUMBER OF SCHOOLS

330

CURRENT NUMBER OF CHILDREN

70

CURRENT NUMBER OF VOLUNTEERS

20

NUMBER OF NATIONALITIES OF CHILDREN

30

NUMBER OF LANGUAGES SPOKEN BY CHILDREN

12

NUMBER OF LANGUAGES SPOKEN BY VOLUNTEERS

Sign Up Today

Have a passion for helping others? Want to put your skills and interests to good use? Interested in supporting the settlement of newly arrived families?

Join the SPARK team and one of our many volunteering opportunities!

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